Biography of James Franklin O’Daniel

The reader of modern Kansas history learns of the wonderful development of the state, of its wealth and resources, of its great educational institutions and its culture, and of its enterprise and reform legislation. Back, however, of all these truthful and encouraging records exists a vital and more interesting page of history, and only by linking the past with the present, may justice be done to all. A half century in the great cyele of Time means little, but it sometimes covers an entire individual life. There are men in different sections of this great state to whose labor, courage and resolution through the last half century, Kansas owes a great debt, for they were the pioneers along every line in which she now stands pre-eminent among the states.

James Franklin O’Daniel, one of Riley County’s representative men, came to Kansas with the pioneers of 1859, at that time being a sturdy and ambitions youth of eighteen years. He was born in Larue County, Kentucky, October 22, 1840, and his parents were James and Margaret (Howell) O’Daniel. By birth they were Kentuckians but they were of Irish and German ancestry. Of their twelve children, James Franklin was fifth in order of birth. In 1852 they removed with their children to Platte County, Missouri, and resided at Parkville until 1859, in which year they became settlers in Pottawatomie County, Kansas, settling on Rock Creek, near Westmoreland. At that time James O’Daniel was a poor man but he was industrious and with the help of his sons prospered as a farmer and stockraiser in the Sunflower state and in the course of time acquired a half section of land in the county in which he had located. Here his death occurred at the age of sixty-six years, having survived his wife, who was a woman of many virtues and noble qualities which her children see reflected in each other.

At the age of eighteen years many youths have completed their period of school attendance but circumstances had been such, in his parents’ pioneering life, that James Franklin had been unable to secure even usual school advantages. A believer in education, Mr. O’Daniel felt this somewhat of a handicap but it is doubtful if any one other than himself ever discovered it, for in his many years of active business life, he capably filled every position, including that of bank president and director, and on many subjects of public importance his judgment is sought and his advice followed.

On October 3, 1867, Mr. O’Daniel was united in marriage with Miss Julia Ann Spalding, who was born in Knox County, Illinois, December 19, 1848. Her parents were Elisha L. and Lueinda (Brown) Spalding. Her father was born in South Carolina, coming of an old American family, and her mother was born in Illinois and was of English lineage. They were married in Illinois and in that state Mrs. Spalding died, leaving three children. Some years later Mr. Spalding married again, his choice being Margaret Young, who died after the birth of two children. Subsequently Mr. Spalding married Margaret Wilson for his third wife and they had three children. During the Civil war he was a soldier in the Union army, serving in Company K, Eleventh Kansas infantry. Farming was his occupation and he carried it on for some years in Pottawatamie County and then removed to Russell County, Kansas, where he lived until his death, when aged seventy-two years.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. J. F. O’Daniel settled on a farm in Pottawatomie County. They were poor in worldly goods but rich in hops and resoureefulness and they set about with commendable determination to secure a permanent home. In this they were finally eminently successful, although many were their trials and arduous their early years. Many seasons of drought brought diseouragement, the grasshoppers came and in leaving left little vegetation behind them, money was searce, transportation poor and social life negligible. They never gave up, however, and one by one these hardships and visitations passed and through men like Mr. O’Daniel, law and order prevailed, conditions improved, more settlers came, land values increased, capital became plentiful, and through his industry and good business management Mr. O’Daniel gradually advanced from a small to an extensive farmer and stockraiser and now pays taxes on 5,000 acres of land in Pottawatomie County.

It was in 1868 that Mr. O’Daniel located on a part of this land and lived there for thirty years, at first in a humble dwelling but later their home was the finest country residence in Pottawatomie County. This was built a number of years ago, with modera comforts and equipments, even luxuries, and it was so fitted with the expectation of being the permanent family home. However, when the children advanced from childhood into ambitious and intelligent youth, Mr. and Mrs. O’Daniel determined to afford them every possible educational advantage and that meant leaving the beautiful home in Pottawatomie County and removing to Manhattan. This was accomplished in 1893 and they now reside at No. 1000 Leavenworth Street, but still retain the old home in the country to which they are bound by many tender ties.

Mr. and Mrs. O’Daniel have reared seven children: Emogene, who is the wife of C. C. Jackson, a farmer of Pottawatomie County; John Willis (Willie), who died at the age of twenty-four years, married Nannie Cave; Mary Lorena; who is the wife of John Scott, assistant director of the Government experiment station at Gainesville, Florida; Elizabeth, who is the wife of William Scott, a farmer in Pottawatomie County; Anna Luella, who is the wife of E. M. Amos, a printer at Manhattan; James Frederick, who married Evelyn McLaughlin, is residing on and managing the O’Daniel homestead in Pottawatomie County; and Lucinda, who is the wife of Alvin R. Springer, a prominent lawyer of Manhattan.

For several years Mr. O’Daniel was president of a bank of Westmoreland, Kansas, and is now a director of the First National Bank of Manhattan. He has never sought political honors and has never allowed politics to absorb either his time or attention to any extent. Mrs. O’Daniel is a member of the Baptist Church but Mr. O’Daniel has never formally united with any religious body although he bas given generously in support of religion as well as education. His life bas been exemplary as a business man, honesty, fairness and justice prevailing in all his associations with his fellow men, and he has always manifested a spirit of public enterprise ever being willing to co-operate in promoting movements for the general welfare. He is a valued member of the Riley County Old Settlers (Historical) Society.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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